The Hungarian State Opera has canceled 15 performances of the musical Billy Elliot in Budapest. The decision, according to general director Szilveszter Okovacs, follows a decrease in sales after a column in a right-wing Hungarian newspaper accused the show of “promoting homosexuality.”
The production, which first premiered at the opera house in 2016, will continue performances as scheduled through July 14 before canceling the remainder of the summer run.
According to the New York Times, the June 1 column by Zsofia N. Horvath in the conservative paper Magyar Idok claimed the Elton John and Lee Hall musical, about a boy in search of acceptance as he aspires to become a ballet dancer, exposes young audience members to “unrestrained gay propaganda,” going “against the objectives of the state…in a situation where the population is already aging and decreasing.”
Okovacs responded in the same publication, writing, “Just because something that is an undeniable part of life appears onstage at the opera, it doesn’t mean we are promoting it.”
Horvath’s claims echo the sentiments of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has addressed the country’s decreasing population with plans to increase the birthrate by 2030 while maintaining an “illiberal democracy.”